Jason Getz / USA TODAY Sports

Here's what I would do as general manager of the Atlanta Braves

Here is my chance to make the trades and make the Atlanta Braves great again.

PLEASE NOTE: This is just for fun. Don’t criticize. Don’t scrutinize. Everyone likes to play GM. This is my chance.

Here’s the deal. I like what the Braves are doing. I think they are trying to be great again. I believe in building an organization through pitching, so while everyone is laughing and making fun of the Braves and saying, “Why are they getting more pitchers?” I’m just smiling. I believe it’s the right thing to do.

Stockpile those arms. Get as many as you can. Build up their value, then keep the best ones and trade a few that can get you some additional bats.

The Braves were bad in 2015. They may not be much better in 2016. They’ll be a bit better, but it will still be a struggle. But I want them to be much better in 2017 and maybe great in 2018. And I want the 2020s, yes the 2020s to be consistently great. I want the 2020s to be like the 1990s.

So with that in mind, I don’t care about fans’ feelings about their favorite players. I’m sorry. In this scenario, I’m the general manager. I’m in charge. I’m making the calls. I don’t want to hear how you may be upset if I trade this player or that player. I don’t care if someone I trade signed a baseball for your kid.

I’m trying to do what’s best for the Atlanta Braves. I’m trying to make them great again.

There is no Chipper Jones on this team. There is no Tom Glavine. John Smoltz ain’t walking through that door when we get to spring training.

What I do have is players with value, players that can provide quantity and quality to an improving organization. It’s not personal. I have nothing against these players, but you see in business it’s never personal. It’s about making your organization, your business, better. That may include taking a hit for the short-term so the long-term can be better. Those sacrifices are made every day in business, and they need to be made for this franchise now.

It’s time to continue the process that was started last year and to continue to accumulate talent for the future. It’s about continuing to create financial flexibility so when that perfect player that can make a difference becomes available, he can be yours.

It’s time to make more trades.

TRADE #1:

Freddie Freeman – 1B – Houston Astros
Eury Perez – OF – Houston Astros
Mauricio Cabrera – P – Houston Astros
Lance McCullers – P – Atlanta Braves
Mark Appel – P – Atlanta Braves
A.J. Reed – 1B – Atlanta Braves
Kyle Tucker – OF – Atlanta Braves

NOTES: Freeman is not untradeable. He’s not untouchable. I know he’s the face, right now, of the organization. But he has significant value. He can get in return a younger first baseman with tremendous potential in Reed. Also, two young arms can be acquired. McCullers can slide right into the rotation and fit perfectly. Appel is a former top overall pick. He hasn’t taken off, but he still has great potential and is worth acquiring. What can he do with the Braves coaches? Can they make him better? Tucker is a kid that just got drafted last June. He becomes an excellent long-term position player prospect. This trade gets position players with potential and pitchers with potential. Perez is an extra outfielder thrown in to sweeten the deal, while Cabrera has value because of his fastball. But I’m worried he’ll be wild and never amount to anything more than a Jose Capellan-like pitcher. In other words, he’s trade bait.

TRADE #2:

Julio Teheran – P – San Francisco Giants
Adonis Garcia – 3B – San Francisco Giants
Johan Camargo – SS – San Francisco Giants
Matt Duffy – 3B – Atlanta Braves
Hunter Strickland – P – Atlanta Braves
Tyler Beede – P – Atlanta Braves

NOTES: Duffy might be a young David Freese-type player. He’d be a significant bat in the lineup. Strickland is a Georgia kid and has potential to be a closer. Beede is a former top pick out of Vanderbilt, and he’s got really good potential. I like Teheran. He’s good, but he’s got a lot of value to get a good bat in return. Beede might be as good as Teheran is now one day. Garcia can simply be placed in the deal, while Camargo provides some potential to the Giants. I’m worried the Giants might want a bit more, but we’ll go with this. Teheran can slide right into their rotation, so that should have significant value for them.

TRADE #3:

Shelby Miller – P – Colorado Rockies
Williams Perez – P – Colorado Rockies
Jason Hursh – P – Colorado Rockies
Connor Lien – OF – Colorado Rockies
Charlie Blackmon – OF – Atlanta Braves
Forrest Wall – 2B – Atlanta Braves
Ryan McMahon – 3B – Atlanta Braves

NOTES: Here is using pitching to get offense. Blackmon can be a cornerstone to the new lineup, while McMahon will be a top prospect for third base. Blackmon, like Miller, has three years left before free agency. Wall provides the Braves with a legit second base prospect. Wait, you’ve already got Duffy, you may say. Well, it’s about accumulating talent, and will it hurt to have another third base prospect? Nope. The Braves would have Rio Ruiz, McMahon and Austin Riley. Yeah, that’s a great situation.

TRADE #4:

Nick Markakis – OF – Baltimore Orioles
Brian Matusz – P – Atlanta Braves

NOTES: If the Orioles want Markakis back, okay, well we’ll make it happen. I like his leadership, his veteran presence in the clubhouse. But I like lefty relievers with Matusz’s talent more. Plus, with Blackmon, Michael Bourn, Hector Olivera and Mallex Smith the Braves will have enough outfielders.

MOVING FORWARD

Okay, so what’s next. Oh, yeah free agents. I’m signing Zack Greinke to a six-year, $180 million dollar contract. Wait, it’s not time for that yet, you say. There’s always time to add an ace. He might not come, but I’m selling him on the chance to lead this team into the next decade. I’m selling him on being the next Greg Maddux in the uniform Maddux wore for a decade. I’m throwing the money at him, since I’ll have it to spend.

So here’s the rotation situation:

Zach Greinke               
Lance McCullers          
Matt Wisler                             
Mike Foltynewicz                    
Manny Banuelos

I’m giving Folty a solid chance to be a starting pitcher. If he struggles, then we’ll place him in the bullpen. But he’s getting most of the 2016 season to show what he can be as a starter.  There will be plenty of candidates to replace him in the rotation if he shows he has to be a reliever instead. But I’m giving Foltynewicz a solid chance. Also, if Banuelos is completely healthy now, I want him to get a full chance at being in the major league rotation. He has great stuff, so it’s Manny’s time.

Here are the starting pitching prospects that will be right behind that group:

AAA Gwinnett

Mark Appel – Had 12 starts in AAA last season – He starts in AAA in 2016
Tyrell Jenkins – Had 9 starts in AAA last season – back there to start 2016
Chris Ellis – Had 15 starts in AA last season so we’re pushing him up here
Sean Newcomb – Had 7 starts in AA last season – Starts in AAA in 2016
Tyler Beede – Had 13 starts in AA last season so we’re pushing him to AAA in 2016

AA Mississippi

Lucas Sims – Had 9 starts in AA last season, so back to Mississippi to start the season
Steve Janas – Had 13 starts in Mississippi, so back there to start
John Gant – Had 7 starts w/ the Braves in AA after 11 starts in AA with the Mets last season
Andrew Thurman – Had 5 starts in AA last season, so back there to start
Zack Bird – Had only 3 starts with Mississippi, so back there to start

That’s 10 pitchers that could be in the AAA and AA rotations – all legit prospects.

How many of these 15 pitchers will:
a) Be candidates for the 2017 Atlanta rotation
b) Have value to possibly be used in trades next offseason to continue getting more talent (bats if needed)

What other team will have that sort of depth from the MLB-level into Double-A? Not one team will come close to that. That’s my goal – to accumulate historic starting pitching depth.

By the way, the third pick in the draft next June will be a pitcher. This time next year I hope that pitcher (maybe Robert Tyler, maybe A.J. Puk, maybe Alec Hansen, maybe Riley Pint) will be one of Atlanta’s top prospects – and that won’t be an easy list to crack.

My pitching depth in Carolina and Rome in 2016 will include:

Max Fried
Touki Toussaint
Max Povse
Rob Whalen
Yean Carlos Gil
Kolby Allard
Mike Soroka
Chad Sobotka
Ricardo Sanchez
Josh Graham

Again, that’s 10 more legit prospects in A-ball. Not bad.

For the bullpen, I’m signing Matt Belisle. Yes, I’m bringing him home. He’s a veteran with off-the-charts makeup. I think he’d be a great addition. Remember, Jason Grilli will return to provide great help.

My 2016 relievers and bullpen candidates in Atlanta:

Arodys Vizcaino
Hunter Strickland
Brian Matusz
Jason Grilli
Matt Belisle
Ian Krol
Andrew McKirahan
Brandon Cuniff
Shae Simmons
Danny Winkler
Chris Withrow
Daniel Burawa

I am keeping Erick Aybar, at least for now. I may want to trade him near the deadline. But I think he will be needed now. I’m signing Garrett Jones to be with Nick Swisher as the first basemen until Reed is ready. Both Swisher and Jones can play the corner outfield spots, as well. I’m giving Christian Bethancourt a full uninterrupted shot at playing everyday at catcher in 2016.

So here’s how my defensive lineup looks like for 2016:

1B: Garrett Jones and Nick Swisher
2B: Jace Peterson
SS: Erick Aybar
3B: Matt Duffy
LF: Hector Olivera
CF: Charlie Blackmon
RF: Michael Bourn
C: Christian Bethancourt

Here’s what is on the horizon with position players:

1B: A.J. Reed (ETA 2017)
2B: Forrest Wall (ETA: 2017)
SS: Ozzie Albies (ETA 2017)
3B: Ryan McMahon (ETA 2018) , Rio Ruiz (ETA 2017), Austin Riley (ETA 2019)
OF: Kyle Tucker (ETA 2019), Mallex Smith (ETA 2016), Dustin Peterson (ETA 2017), Braxton Davidson (ETA 2018)
C: Lucas Herbert (ETA 2019)

We believe Kevin Maitan is coming next July. He’ll be an elite prospect that will be in the middle infield mix in a couple of years.

These moves would give Atlanta 9 of the Top 100 prospects rated by MLB.com (in this order):

1. Sean Newcomb
2. Ozzie Albies
3. Mark Appel
4. Ryan McMahon
5. Kyle Tucker
6. Touki Toussaint
7. Forrest Wall
8. Kolby Allard
9. A.J. Reed

That is a pretty good future. Is the 2016 team going to win anything significant? Probably not. But the wheels are in motion to continue the improvement of this organization. The Braves will have the best farm system in baseball, and fans will realize what is happening with this process to be great again.

And next offseason, there is little doubt the depth will be there to allow the Braves to make another deal for another position player that might be needed.

So there it is. There’s my plan. Let the trades begin (well, continue… really).

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

 


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